What makes a good marriage?
When we got married 25 years ago, I didn’t know the answer to that question, but definitely wanted to find out.
The buzz word back in our day was “communication.” The secret to a good marriage was all about communication. All the marriage experts of the day were writing books about how to successfully communicate, and I bought every single one of them.
All I can say is poor Paul. And yes, I have apologized to him for the many “sessions” I put him through.
The “make-sure-your-marriage-is-perfect” sessions mainly involved “mirroring.” This is when one spouse expresses his or her issues and the other spouse “mirrors” the complaints back to make sure he/she knows the source of frustration.
If done correctly, it goes something like this:
Me: “I am frustrated because I think you are working too much and not spending enough time with me.”
Spouse: “So what I hear you saying is, you are frustrated with me because I am trying to make enough money to support us and pay for our needs.”
Me: “Yes. That is what I am saying — you work too much.”
It goes on from here when you supposedly figure out something that makes both people happy and, voila, problem solved and it’s a perfect marriage.
On a side note, this was also during the era when the experts said parents were all supposed to be practicing a similar technique when it came to raising children.
So when a 3-year-old was throwing a full-on temper tantrum, we were supposed to calmly say, “I see you are feeling angry right now.”
I tried that little magical technique a few times, but our children never responded well to that sort of talk.
But I digress, back to perfect marriages.
The mirroring technique never really worked for us, and ironically, it didn’t work out so well for many of those marriage experts who I later learned divorced.
I think what works in a marriage is a combination of things. Having respect for a spouse is huge. And that is mutual respect.
Women should respect their husbands with their roles at work as well as in the home. Too many TV shows today show the husband in the family as a bumbling idiot.
I think that’s unfortunate since so many young people view these shows as reality. Husbands should also respect their wives. Again, with regards to work, as well as their role as mothers.
I always see a red flag when I hear a young couple say they are going to divide up the household chores 50-50. No matter what, inevitably the wife is going to do most of the chores.
The sooner a couple comes to terms with that, the better off the marriage will be.
I don’t mean the husband should do nothing. I just think it is natural that women end up taking care of the home.
That said, if a wife asks her husband to do something, he will win major points if he does it.
Another big key to a good marriage, is spending time together. This doesn’t mean doing things that cost a ton of money. One of our favorite things to do as a couple is sit outside and listen to music.
Connecting after a day apart is so important. And I don’t mean when the kids are around.
Parents of young children have to work at carving out alone time. When our four were young, we always put them to bed early so we could have at least a few hours together before going to sleep.
We also had the rule that when we were on a date, whether it was going out to dinner or just getting coffee, there would be not talk about the children.
Inevitably one of us would bring up a kid matter, but was quickly reminded of the rule. This was good insurance that while we were raising the kids, we still had a relationship separate from them. That is critical.
It is heartbreaking to see a 25-year marriage end in divorce because the kids go off to college and the couple doesn’t feel a connection to one another.
Of course, all people who have a good marriage will say it’s not a perfect one. Nobody is perfect, and there is no such thing as a perfect marriage.
That means another key is to have a forgiving heart. It also means when we mess up, we should apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Doing thoughtful things for a spouse is another way to keep things fresh and reminds him or her that we think of them even when not together.
Paul doesn’t necessarily participate in the meal planning, but I know he loves that I always include foods he loves or will love.
Even a marriage in trouble can be saved. Don’t be afraid to speak to a pastor or seek out help.
While no marriage is perfect, having a good marriage is possible when both spouses set that as their goal.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.